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Subfloor Pits and the Archaeology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia, Subfloor Pits and the Archaology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia, 0817315861, 0-8173-1586-1, 978-0-8173-1586-3, 9780817315863, , , Subfloor Pits and the Archaology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia, 0817354549, 0-8173-5454-9, 978-0-8173-5454-1, 9780817354541, , , Subfloor Pits and the Archaology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia, 081738149X, 0-8173-8149-X, 978-0-8173-8149-3, 9780817381493,

Subfloor Pits and the Archaeology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia
Patricia Samford

2007. 248 pp.
Price:  $49.95 s
Quality Paper
2007. 246 pp.
Price:  $29.95 s
E Book
2008. 248 pp.
Price:  $29.95 d

Enslaved Africans and their descendants comprised a significant portion of colonial Virginia populations, with most living on rural slave quarters adjacent to the agricultural fields in which they labored. Archaeological excavations into these home sites have provided unique windows into the daily lifeways and culture of these early inhabitants.
A common characteristic of Virginia slave quarters is the presence of subfloor pits beneath the houses. The most common explanations of the functions of these pits are as storage places for personal belongings or root vegetables, and some contextual and ethnohistoric data suggest they may have served as West Africa-style shrines. Through excavations of 103 subfloor pits dating from the 17th through mid-19th centuries, Samford reveals a wealth of data including shape, location, surface area, and depth, as well as contents and patterns of related feature placement. Archaeology reveals the material circumstances of slaves’ lives, which in turn opens the door to illuminating other aspects of life: spirituality, symbolic meanings assigned to material goods, social life, individual and group agency, and acts of resistance and accommodation. Analysis of the artifact assemblages allows the development of hypotheses about how West African, possibly Igbo, cultural traditions were maintained and transformed in the Virginia Chesapeake.

Patricia Samford is Regional Manager, Historic Bath, North Carolina State Historic Sites in Bath, North Carolina.

"This revised dissertation is a tightly focused and thorough investigation of a specific type of archaeological feature, sub-floor pits that appear to be typical of many African American sites of enslaved laborers, particularly on Virginia plantations. Samford (Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory) studied the sub-floor pits in various functional and symbolic contexts: as root cellars and personal storage areas or as shrines from five quarters of enslaved laborers from 18th-century plantations: Kingsmill Quarter, Carter's Grove, Utopia, Rich Neck Plantations, and others throughout Tidewater Virginia. This investigation serves as a welcome supplement to earlier work done on other enslaved sites such as Poplar Forest, Williamsburg, Monticello, and Jamestown. Although the study, with its detailed attention to archaeological field methodology, is geared specifically toward archaeologists, it is an important source for any scholar of African American history as well as archaeology. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."

“The manuscript is thorough and richly textured in use of ethnohistoric, art history, archaeological, and historical data. This will be a useful and concise source of data.”
—Amy L. Young, Associate Professor of Anthropology, The University of Southern Mississippi

“This is a well-conducted piece of exciting synthetic research on a topic of interest to many archaeologists. This study features a thorough and sophisticated integration of ethnographic, documentary, and archaeological analyses. This work is an outstanding example of contextual archaeology.”
—Laurie A. Wilkie, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

"Samford's book is an excellent introduction to the archaeology of slavery in Colonial Virginia. Although the subject might at first glance appear to be overly specialized, her analysis of the pit features identified in Virginia quarters reveals much about the social, physical, and spiritual conditions of the enslaved in 18th century Virginia. Her arguments are well thought out and presented cogently in a very readable and infomation packed book. I would suggest that anyone with an interest in colonial slavery read Subfloor Pits and the Archaeology of Slavery in Colonial Virginia."--Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology

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